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Illustrations by Zohar Lazar
The AARP Bulletin reached out to the presidential candidates from the Republican and Democratic parties and invited them to sit down and talk with us about the issues most important to you, our readers. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton accepted our invitation and answered all 13 questions we asked in a face-to-face interview in August. For space reasons, we include in these pages her entire answers to 11 questions. Donald Trump agreed to answer in written form. In early September, Trump responded to six of our 13 questions, and his written responses to those questions follow below. To serve our readers, we include in this package statements that he has made on the questions he did not answer, taken from his website, two recent speeches and his response to AARP in June on Social Security. Each is clearly marked.
Our goal is to inform you on the issues as completely as we can. We’ve made every effort to be fair to both candidates.
Editor in chief, AARP Bulletin
Hillary Clinton: Well, Social Security falls at the very top of my priority list because, as you point out, the numbers dictate that we do everything we possibly can to make sure that Social Security is producing the kind of financial support that our seniors need and deserve, and that we put it on a strong enough financial basis, so that those who are coming after will also be able to count on it. And to that end, I have been very clear that I intend to increase the funding that’s going into Social Security by looking at those who can and should be paying more. There are a couple of ways of doing that. We can raise the cap. We can also look at expanding the definition of the kind of income, so it’s not just active, it’s also passive income—investments and dividends and other forms of income that enable a small percentage of Americans to do very well. And so we will be looking carefully at how we really consolidate the health of the Social Security trust fund. I’ve also made clear that there are certain groups of recipients whom I’m particularly concerned about…We see a particular problem with widows who lose so much of their income with the death of a spouse. I’m also focused on caregivers who took time out from the workforce and had no reportable Social Security income contributions, which lowered their yearly income.
Take a Stand. To get more detail on where the candidates stand on Social Security »
Donald Trump: Social Security will provide the full and complete benefits promised to seniors. Ensuring that Americans receive the benefits they have earned is high on my priority list.
Hillary Clinton: Well, I think there are long-term, medium-term and short-term steps that should be taken. On the long-term side, I want to encourage younger people to start saving earlier. That’s why I favor the automatic enrollment of young workers into whatever program their employer might have, and to really just set that up as a habit. In the medium term, to really prevent conflicts of interest and enforce fiduciary responsibilities, which is something that the Obama administration has really taken on and I applaud, so that people in their middle years—their highest earning years—are investing and not being taken advantage of.
And then, shorter term, we need to do as good a job as we can, making sure that Social Security gives them that floor that they need. And we need to do as good a job as possible to keep up with cost-of-living increases so that as costs do go up, Social Security recipients are not fearful about outliving their money. And we have to take a hard look at how we do a better job in helping people on the lower end of the income scale get more support in terms of tax relief.
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Donald Trump: I’d cut taxes, renegotiate unfair trade deals, unleash America’s energy potential and reform regulations to spur economic growth. This will promote economic growth, which will boost income, wages and jobs.
Hillary Clinton: Well, these are legitimate fears. I believe that people are rightly concerned about violence. Terrorism is part of that violence, and we have to do the best job we can to keep America safe. So I’ve laid out a very comprehensive plan about taking on the terrorists, going after them where they operate, doing everything we can to take away their territories so they can’t mastermind attacks from afar. But we also have to go after them online because that is where they recruit, radicalize and direct attacks. And we need to do a better job of getting there early, rooting out people who are vulnerable and preventing that from happening. But I’m looking at violence broadly.… It’s also why I’ve advocated gun-safety reform, like comprehensive background checks, closing the gun-show loophole, closing the online loophole—because, you know, it’s not only terrorists we need to be worried about. Terrorism is part of it, but gun violence kills 33,000 Americans a year...We’ve got to get serious about stemming violence and terrorism in every way we can.
Get the lastest updates on where we stand — AARP Advocacy Newsletter »
Donald Trump: The only way to truly defeat Islamic terrorism is to call it by its name and identify it as a military and ideological foe. The U.S. will cease processing visas or admitting refugees from regions of the world where proper vetting cannot occur and which are at a high risk for terrorism.
We will also resume ideological screening to prevent entry into the United States by those who do not share our values, as was regularly done during the Cold War.
Overseas, we will militarily target and destroy ISIS, al-Qaida and other Islamic terrorists through overwhelming force and by cooperating with regional and international allies who share our goals. Here at home, we will catch, stop and punish lone-wolf terrorists like the Orlando shooter who murdered 49 innocent people.
Hillary Clinton: People elected have to pay attention to those they represent as opposed to powerful lobbies, like the gun lobby for example. So that’s why I talk about these issues all through the campaign, because I want everybody to know clearly: Here’s where I stand, and if you vote for me, I’m going to do everything I can to deal with these problems that have been gridlocked.
I did it as first lady. I worked with Republicans across the aisle. We created the Children’s Health Insurance Program that insures 8 million kids. We reformed the foster care system. I worked as a senator with practically every Republican I served with, and as secretary of state I worked with Republicans. And when I’m not running for something, Republicans actually have a lot of nice things to say about me, and I’ve been very grateful for the numbers of Republicans who have come out in support of my campaign.
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Donald Trump: Setting and establishing a clear agenda, taking it to the American people and developing public support will help to break up gridlock in Washington, along with developing relationships on both sides of the deal and understanding the art of negotiation to get a win for all Americans.
Washington will finally be held accountable for action, performance and results.
Hillary Clinton: I feel strongly about this, because I don’t think anyone should be subjected to discrimination for any reason, and that includes age. And therefore I want to use the full power of the law to crack down on age discrimination wherever it pokes up its ugly head. I also think we need more programs to help provide additional skills to people in the workforce who are older.
When I talk about helping people get the skills they need, I’m not just talking about young people, I’m talking about people across the spectrum. I want more community programs to offer skills, and I want to encourage older workers to take advantage of that.
Donald Trump: We would strongly enforce legal prohibitions against such discrimination, including enforcing such rules as it pertains to the abuse of visa programs that replace older workers.
Seniors are seasoned workers who add experience and wisdom to a dynamic, 21st-century workforce, and they ought to be respected and protected.
Hillary Clinton: I have been quite delighted at the outcomes of the [campaign] for many reasons, but certainly because there don’t seem to be any arguments about age. People can argue about our policies, our experiences, but I think it goes to show that what we are seeing happen is that if you take care of yourself, if you can afford good health care and get it, you can live a full and productive life much longer than people in prior generations did.
That’s what I want for everybody. I want everybody to feel they are at their best and that they’re able to continue to make a contribution and enjoy life as best as they possibly can. So I appreciate the emphasis on healthiness and wellness, and that’s something that I want to try to promote in the White House and get older people, not just younger people, to be paying attention—to really take advantage of opportunities and to do more. So I’m excited by what I see as a real opportunity for us to break down the barriers that age has historically posed and to really help people to focus on how they can be as healthy and well as possible for as long as possible.
Hillary Clinton: I think we have to be sure that the people who receive Social Security are doing so legitimately. And there are always the stories, which are a very small percentage of people, who continue to receive payments years after they’ve died. Others who are not really eligible but somehow seeped into the system.
With advances in technology, it ought to be possible for us to verify and to make sure that even though we’re talking about a really small sliver of recipients—I don’t want anybody taking advantage of Social Security when we need to do more to make sure the people who have earned and deserved it are getting their fair due.
Hillary Clinton: Well, I think there are several approaches we have to try to pursue and accomplish. As people get older, it’s often likely that they are going to require additional medications. And we’ve got to do what I’ve been advocating for many years: Give Medicare the right and the authority to negotiate for lower drug prices. That will have a big impact on lowering the burden on seniors.
I also want us to take a hard look at copays, premiums and deductibles, because both under Medicare and under the Affordable Care Act, they are creeping up, and we are not going to be able to keep health care costs down overall or specifically for individuals unless we come up with better ways to control those costs. And I’ve said repeatedly in this campaign that I’m going to tackle that.
Hillary Clinton: I have long advocated a public option buy-in for people between 55 and 64 into Medicare. Now clearly it would have to be paid for, and individuals who bought in would have to be assessed and [pay the] appropriate cost. But I’ve advocated that since 2008 when I ran for president. I think my husband was the first president to advocate a public option including a buy-in program for Americans between 55 and 64. It makes a lot of sense to me because, again, the cost of health care on average goes up the older you get.
And I have met too many people who are 62, 63 who are not getting appropriate care because they can’t afford it, and they’re just literally holding their breath until they can get on Medicare. I have met women with diagnosed lumps in their breasts who don’t go for help because they know they can’t afford the surgery and the treatment if it turns out to be bad news. That makes no sense, because then of course they get sicker, and it costs more and everybody pays because of that. So my goal would be to create a public option for people between 55 and 64 to buy into Medicare. I think it would save us money. It would certainly save heartbreak.
Hillary Clinton: I think we should first of all recognize and respect the work of caregivers. If all of the caregivers who are caring for loved ones were to stop tomorrow, we wouldn’t know what to do. They are providing care that would otherwise have to be paid for by everyone else in society because we are a compassionate nation. We’re not going to turn our backs on people who are in need of care. So let’s first recognize and respect the role of caregivers, and then let’s do something to help them.
I would like to give a tax credit to people who are providing caregiving, who are still in the workforce, [so] that they then can recover some of the lost time and money that they have willingly given to care for a parent, a spouse, a child.
I also want us to do more to create a tax system that rewards caregiving and that of course includes a credit for time out of the workforce that can then be applied to Social Security. You know, now we base it on an average, and if they’re with a lot of years with zero, your average goes down.
Hillary Clinton: Well, I am adamant that we are not going to raise taxes on the middle class, and we certainly are not going to go back to trickle-down economics that benefit only those at the top. Regressive tax policies hurt the vast majority of Americans and benefit a very small percentage. We’ve got to reverse that.
You know, since the Great Recession, most of the income gains have gone to the top 1 percent. So that’s where the money is. And I have laid out plans about taxing millionaires and billionaires and Wall Street and corporations to pay their fair share to support our country, and that includes Social Security and Medicare and all the other programs that are particularly aimed at helping older Americans. So my goal is to get the wealthy to pay their fair share and to reduce the tax burden on everybody else.
Donald Trump: Yes. Many Americans are living longer, healthier, fulfilling lives. As I’ve said before, I feel like I’m 35. Stamina and energy are important. As is a positive attitude and joy for how you spend your days.
In order to help our readers make informed decisions in the upcoming election, we have included Donald Trump’s positions on some of the issues critical to voters over 50 from a previous AARP Bulletin article, from his official website and from two major policy speeches he gave in late summer.
TRUMP ON SOCIAL SECURITY
Written response in June to AARP
The key to preserving Social Security and other programs that benefit AARP members is to have an economy that is robust and growing. For too long Americans have had a great deal of uncertainty in their lives, and the reforms I will bring to D.C. will remove that uncertainty and will restore confidence in the American economy.
First, I will work with Congress to pass and implement a comprehensive tax-reform plan. Aside from dramatically streamlining personal income tax by removing carve-outs for special interests and reducing the number of brackets, we will also seek to eliminate the alternative minimum tax and the death tax. The centerpiece of our tax-reform efforts will be on the corporate side, where we will lower the rate to 15 percent, allow repatriation of offshore capital at 10 percent, stop taxing returned earnings from overseas that have already been taxed, and allow 100 percent expensing for businesses. These reforms will apply to all business enterprises, not just the largest corporate giants.
Tax reform, however, will not be enough. We will need to renegotiate trade deals and impose budget discipline so that we can stop this reckless behavior that continues to increase our debt. We will move to repeal Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act so as to bring market forces to bear that will increase competition and lower costs to consumers.
We will finally mount a campaign to attack fraud, waste and abuse in the government and will examine reducing the size of the federal workforce. We are spending too much money on enterprises that are of little added value in the lives of Americans.
I will work with Congress to ensure we have a pro-growth agenda in place. If we are able to sustain growth rates in GDP that we had as a result of the Kennedy and Reagan tax reforms, we will be able to secure Social Security for the future. As our demography changes, a prudent administration would begin to examine what changes might be necessary for future generations. Our goal is to keep the promises made to Americans through our Social Security program.
TRUMP ON CAREGIVING
From Donald Trump’s official website
The Trump plan will provide Americans the option of opening dependent care savings accounts (DCSAs) so that they can plan for future expenses relating to child and elder care. Annual contributions to a dependent care savings account and earnings on the account will not be subject to tax.
Total contributions could not exceed $2,000 per year from all sources, but balances in a DCSA will roll over from year to year so that substantial amounts could be accumulated over a period of years.
When established for an elderly dependent, the funds can be used for adult day care, in-home or long-term care services. The ability to set aside funds tax-free would be particularly helpful to women, low-income workers and minorities, who are typically primary-care providers that reduce paid time worked in order to provide care.
The ability to set aside funds for elder care is critically important because taking time off from working to care for elderly family members reduces a woman’s financial readiness for retirement, and can increase a woman’s risk of living in poverty in old age.
The Trump plan would also allow an above-the-line deduction for elder care costs necessary to keep a family member working outside the home.
It would apply to costs like home care or adult day care costs for elderly dependents when those expenses are needed to keeping family members in the workforce. The deduction would be limited to $5,000 per year.
TRUMP ON HEALTH CARE COSTS
From Donald Trump’s official website
If we were to simply enforce the current immigration laws and restrict the unbridled granting of visas to this country, we could relieve health care cost pressures on state and local governments.
To reform health care in America, we need a president who has the leadership skills, will and courage to engage the American people and convince Congress to do what is best for the country.
Since March of 2010, the American people have had to suffer under the incredible economic burden of the Affordable Care Act—Obama-care. This legislation, passed by totally partisan votes in the House and Senate and signed into law by the most divisive and partisan president in American history, has tragically but predictably resulted in runaway costs, websites that don’t work, greater rationing of care, higher premiums, less competition and fewer choices. Obamacare has raised the economic uncertainty of every single person residing in this country. The damage done by the Democrats and President Obama, and abetted by the Supreme Court, will be difficult to repair unless the next president and a Republican Congress lead the effort to bring much-needed free market reforms to the health care industry.
On day one of the Trump administration, we will ask Congress to immediately deliver a full repeal of Obamacare. However, it is not enough to simply repeal this terrible legislation. We will work with Congress to make sure we have a series of reforms that follow free market principles and that will restore economic freedom and certainty to everyone in this country. By following free market principles and working together to create sound public policy, we will broaden health care access, make health care more affordable and improve the quality of the care available to all Americans.
TRUMP ON TERRORISM AND NATIONAL SECURITY
Speech in Youngstown, Ohio, on national security, Aug. 15
If I become president, the era of nation building will be ended. Our new approach, which must be shared by both parties in America [and] by our allies overseas, must be to halt the spread of radical Islam. All actions should be oriented around this goal, and any country which shares this goal will be our ally. We cannot always choose our friends, but we can never fail to recognize our enemies.
As president, I will call for an international conference focused on this goal. We will work side by side with our friends in the Middle East, including our greatest ally, Israel. We will partner with King Abdullah of Jordan and President Sisi of Egypt, and all others who recognize this ideology of death that must be extinguished.
I also believe that we could find common ground with Russia in the fight against ISIS. They, too, have much at stake in the outcome in Syria, and have had their own battles with Islamic terrorism.
My administration will aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS, international cooperation to cut off their funding, expanded intelligence sharing and cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting.
We cannot allow the internet to be used as a recruiting tool, and for other purposes, by our enemy. We must shut down their access to this form of communication, and we must do so immediately.
The fight will not be limited to ISIS. We will decimate al-Qaida, and we will seek to starve funding for Iran-backed Hamas and Hezbollah. We can use existing U.N. Security Council resolutions to apply new sanctions.
Military, cyber and financial warfare will all be essential in dismantling Islamic terrorism. But we must use ideological warfare as well. Just as we won the Cold War, in part, by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets, so too must we take on the ideology of radical Islam.
Our administration will be a friend to all moderate Muslim reformers in the Middle East, and will amplify their voices.
TRUMP ON TAX REFORM
Speech in Detroit on economic policy, Aug. 8
I am proposing an across-the-board income tax reduction, especially for middle-income Americans. This will lead to millions of new good-paying jobs.
The rich will pay their fair share, but no one will pay so much that it destroys jobs, or undermines our ability to compete.
As part of this reform, we will eliminate the carried interest deduction and other special-interest loopholes that have been so good for Wall Street investors, and people like me, but unfair to American workers. Tax simplification will be a major feature of the plan. Our tax code is so burdensome that we waste 9 billion hours a year in tax-code compliance.
My plan will reduce the number of brackets from 7 to 3, and streamline the process. We will work with House Republicans on this plan, using the same brackets they have proposed: 12, 25 and 33 percent. For many American workers, their tax rate will be zero.
While we will develop our own set of assumptions and policies, agreeing in some areas but not in others, we will be focused on the same shared goals and guided by the same shared principles: jobs, growth and opportunity.
These reforms will offer the biggest tax revolution since the Reagan tax reform, which unleashed years of continued economic growth and job creation.
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